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OnMedea: January 2010 Archives

January 2010 Archives

At the upcoming Super Bowl in Miami, 22 players are absolutely necessary to play the game.  Apparently, 22 producers are absolutely necessary to make "Hesher" - an independent film premiering at the Sundance Film Festival (and just picked up for distribution by Newmarket) starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman.

There's a fixed joke in Hollywood that you can't throw a rock without hitting a screenwriter.  It seems, for those of us inclined to throw rocks, you can't throw a rock at Sundance without hitting an independent film producer

What happens if, by some chance, "Hesher" gets nominated for an Academy Award next year.  Only three producers are allowed on the ballot and actually receive the award.  What happens to the other 19 and what is the process for weeding it down to three?  Wouldn't that be a great reality show?

And "Hesher" is not an isolated case.  It appears to be a trend. 

Here are three films that were at the Sundance Film Festival and the number of Producers that were necessary to produce them.

hesher.jpgHesher (22 Producers - including "Executive" and "Co"-Producers)

  • Lucy Cooper
  • Matthew Weaver
  • Scott Prisand
  • Natalie Portman
  • Spencer Susser
  • Johnny Lin
  • Win Sheridan
  • Jonathan Weisgal
  • Wayne Chang
  • Aleen Keshishian
  • Annette Savitch
  • Scot Armstrong
  • Ravi Nandan
  • Aaron Dowing
  • Rob Ortiz
  • Scott Kluge
  • Jeff Davis
  • Jay Rifkin
  • Ari Ackerman
  • Jay Franks
  • Happy Walters
  • Gina Kirkpatrick

the_kids_are_all_right_image.jpgThe Kids Are All Right (starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo - 13 Producers)

  • Gary Gilbert
  • Jeffrey Levy-Hinte
  • Celine Rattray
  • Jordan Horowitz
  • Daniela Taplin Lundberg
  • Steven Saxton
  • Ron Stein
  • Christy Cashman
  • Anne O'Shea
  • Riva Marker
  • Andrew Sawyer
  • Neil Katz
  • J. Todd Harris

the_romantics_holmes_wood.jpgThe Romantics (starring Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel - 11 Producers)

  • Daniela Taplin Lundberg
  • Jennifer Todd
  • Suzanne Todd
  • Michael Benaroya
  • Taylor Kephart
  • Galt Niederhoffer
  • Katie Holmes
  • Riva Marker
  • Celine Rattray
  • Pamela Hirsch
  • Ron Stein

Look, I'm sure all these people played a vital role in their respective films' journey to the screen... or not (only those on the production really know what's going on here).  But a Producer credit used to be highly-coveted and very difficult to get - in most cases after years of paying dues and working up the cinematic ladder. 

Today, it seems, the credit is handed out like film festival swag.  Now, when I meet someone who says they are a producer on an independent film, I am inclined to say "Oh, really, what, did you deliver the food?"

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

ben_silverman_miptv_keynote.jpgIt recently came to my attention that Ben Silverman was asked to give a keynote address at this year's MIPTV Conference in Cannes, France on April 13, 2010.  Realizing that Ben is a very busy man (what with single-handedly changing the media landscape... again), I have taken the liberty of drafting his keynote address for him.

Based on everything I know about him through interviews and presentations, etc., I have attempted to write the speech in a style he would find the most comfortable.
Ben Silverman - Founder and CEO of the new multimedia company Electus - a groundbreaking partnership with media mogul Barry Diller's leading interactive company IAC.

(As the lights dim, a low hum emits from somewhere, smoke machines fill the stage with a heavy mist.  A lightning bolt appears to strike the back of the stage followed by a thunderclap - leaving the silhouette of... A MAN.)

Ben-Silverman.jpgBOOMING VOICE OVER:  Since the dawn of time, only one man has had the balls to change the world.  To change the way we think, we feel, we speak.  To change the way we laugh, the way we cry.  The guts to change 10pm programming on broadcast networks.  His name... is Ben.

(A pin spotlight pulls out to reveal BEN SILVERMAN in all his glory - sunglasses, suit that he probably slept in with the tie loosened - unshaven.  He points to the sky as another lightning bolt shoots out of his finger.  "Rock You Like A Hurricane" by The Scorpions screams from the speakers as he floats magically toward the podium on a hydraulic saucer.)

All is silent (except, I imagine, for the thunderous applause from the lucky MIPTV crowd).

Ben Silverman:  Yeah... all right... good morning Cannes.  Hell of a town you got here.  I don't know what kind of poison you serve in your bars, but you fuckers got me drunk! 

(From the wings, Notional founder and CEO Ricky Van Veen is heard cackling.)

Ricky Van Veen:  You got that shit right!  Whooo!

Ben Silverman:  Before I get started, how about a shout out for my little pissant buddy over there, Notional Founder and CEO Ricky Van Veen!

(There is a smattering of applause and bunch of "who the fuck is that" looks throughout the crowd.)

ben_silverman_4.jpgBen Silverman:  All right, all right... Let's get going.  It's really great to be here at the MIPTV conference.  What the hell does 'MIP' mean anyway?  Nobody seems to know. 

Ricky Van Veen:  Damn straight on that one, cat daddy!

Ben Silverman: 
Can it, Ricky.

Ricky Van Veen:  I get it "Cannes"!  That's where we are!  Freakin' hilarious, boss.

Ben Silverman:  Shut the fuck up, Ricky. 

Ricky Van Veen:  Sorry, daddy-o.

Ben Silverman:  (holding up a cocktail) And I said more vodka than tomato juice, bitch.

Ricky Van Veen:  Sorry bout dat. 

(Ricky comes on stage and takes Ben's drink to freshen it up.)

Ben Silverman:  Anyway... Now we're cruising.  You guys (and ladies) are all International Television folk, right?  Excellent.  How's business?  It's great to see the Polish TV delegation out there. 

(There is applause from a delegation of Polish Television Executives.)

Ben-Silverman_electus.jpgBen Silverman:  The last I heard from you guys in Poland, you were dealing with the problems of screen doors on your submarines, right?  And I heard your library was closed because someone stole THE BOOK!  Am I right?  Anway, I see you guys have television now.  Welcome to the 20th century!  Next stop, the internet!

(A screen behind Ben descends from the ceiling revealing his PowerPoint presentation.  The light envelops him in a Christ-like glow.  The first slide is Ben Silverman's professional timeline.)

Ben Silverman:  After I created "The Office" in the UK and decided to bring it to America, I really needed a new challenge.  So I told NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Zucker I wanted to be the head of NBC.  He said I was overqualified for the job and would be better suited to be his boss... but I convinced him that I would prefer to run NBC for a while and see how that goes first. 

(Another slide - Images of Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jeff Zucker.)

ben_silverman_barry_diller.jpgBen Silverman:  When Jeff told me he wanted to move Jay Leno to 10pm and cancel all the dramas in that time slot, I said he was crazy.  "It will never work", I said.  I predicted at the time The Jay Leno Show would last approximately four months before the affiliates would complain about having a crappy lead-in.  But Jeff Zucker was insistent.  So he did it.  He moved Jay to 10pm... and I quit.

(Another slide - giant Electus logo... a smaller IAC logo barely noticeable.)

Ben Silverman:  Having conquered the broadcast network world, I decided the one space where every content producer was having trouble was the online world.  It was a challenge I couldn't refuse.  The person who figures out how to make money with content on the internet will be made King!  Everyone is losing shitloads of money right now.  "It's a space that can't be tamed, Ben."  "Please, Ben, don't try it."  Everyone was being a whiny little bitch to me, begging me not to go into New Media.  When Barry Diller pleaded with me to take $100 million and start Electus, I told him it wouldn't work.  "It's throwing good money down the toilet", I said.  But he insisted. 

(Another slide - Ben Silverman holding a mini-dv camcorder.)

Ben Silverman:  I just wanted to have a little mini-dv camcorder and some really good out of work writers looking for a break and I wanted to create a low-cost, high-quality content site.  It's the only model that works.  But Mr. Diller, being used to high-cost, low-quality content, insisted that I take the money.  So I did.  And, today, I'm happy to say, there is still some money left.

(Slight applause.)

Ben Silverman:  I will now take your questions.

Note to Ben, just copy and paste the text into Word, print it out, and you have your speech.

You're welcome.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

CBS Films - R.I.P.

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cbs_films_rip.jpgI'm actually surprised there isn't more inside media coverage of the disastrous debut of CBS Films' first release - "Extraordinary Measures" starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser ($6.0 Million opening weekend from over 2,500 theaters - finishing 8th behind "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" in its 5th week). 

I realize the Jay/Dave/Conan/Jeff Zucker drama is a much sexier story but CBS Films' failure is another example of the cocksure executive that believes he can do no wrong. 

Les Moonves, former bit player on "The Six Million Dollar Man" turned powerful CBS media mogul, is the exec on the hot seat this time.  (Personally, I can imagine Jeff Zucker pushing this story just to get his name out of the press.)

Four years ago, when Sumner Redstone was completing the disastrous Viacom / CBS split, Mr. Moonves wanted Paramount Pictures so badly that when he didn't get it, he decided he could create a new Paramount Pictures from scratch - CBS Films.

It's a cold Monday morning at Black Rock today.

I'm assuming there will be two maybe three more failed releases in 2010 and then a decision to "refocus CBS' energies on our booming cable network distribution platforms and new media" (translation: the end of CBS Films).

The R.I.P. tombstone above is generous in giving CBS Films a four year lifespan (2007-2010) considering the first release wasn't until this past weekend - but I think three years of staffing up and development does count as being in business.

newscorp_buys_viacom_small.jpgAnother possibility for CBS would be to acquire Summit EntertainmentAt least then they would have two guaranteed hits in the pipeline - the final two "Twilight" movies.

Or... my personal dream plan, somehow have CBS either acquire or wrest away Paramount from ViacomNews Corporation buys the cable channels from Viacom (assets they sorely need).  Viacom shuts down thus getting us one step closer to saying bye-bye to Sumner Redstone forever.

Regardless of what happens, CBS' old media experiment is not going to make it.  But Les Moonves can take solace in the fact that a very exciting Super Bowl is coming to CBS and he still runs one of the top two broadcast networks in the country. 

There was a time when that would have been enough for one man.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

Meredith-Whitney_3.jpgPeople really need to stop listening to this woman.  I said it back in November when she made her crazy comments then, and I say it now. 

Even though I know she would love to take credit for the Wall Street panic this week, nothing could be further from the truth. 

If you look at the news out of China and threats against future bank profits by the President of the United States (which she could have in no way predicted), it's not difficult to see why so many people would feel jittery and want to sell off a few questionable stocks.

And then, today, Ms. Whitney throws gasoline onto the fire by saying President Obama's proposed banking regulations will probably become law and "dramatically" reduce bank profits. 

What?  What shit is Meredith Whitney smoking to think that this bill will pass?  I can even imagine President Obama and Paul Volcker secretly saying - 'We'll take a tough stand on the banks, but no way in hell does this pass.'

She even has the temerity to say this AFTER the Massachusetts Senatorial election this week.  What's going on here?

meredith_whitney_2.jpgFirst of all, there is no chance this bill gets to the Congress before the mid-term elections in November and (thanks to the Supreme Court decision yesterday) with all the new money that corporations (including big banks) can spend on candidates, I suspect there will be a different make-up of the House and Senate by the time this bill does come up for a vote.  And it will, most likely, be defeated - or watered down to a point that it really has no effect.

So, what is the point of Meredith Whitney speaking out with such bravado about how bad things are?  Perhaps she is shorting everything in her portfolio and has discovered that she can move the markets with her statements.  Perhaps she's just a downer of a person and needs some joy in her life.

I don't know - but it disturbs me whenever she talks.

Personally, I think President Obama was wrong to come out with such a strong statement against banks on the day Goldman Sachs reported such strong earnings.  I think, in general, negativity about the economy should be released only in the Summer when people aren't so gloomy and can handle bad news better. 

Obviously, that can't happen.  And we shouldn't "put lipstick on a pig", as they say, if things are getting worse out there.

I just don't believe things are getting worse.  I don't believe Meredith Whitney thinks things are getting worse, but, for whatever reason, she wants you to believe they are.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

CBS Films' Big Test

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CBS_Films_logo.pngCBS Films - that scrappy upstart with the name that screams 'OLD MEDIA' ("Films", really?  Can you even buy film stock anymore?  The world is going digital, CBS) - hits the ground running today with its first release, "Extraordinary Measures" starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser.

extraordinary_measures_movie_poster_01.jpgMost start-up production companies don't have Harrison Ford in their first movie.  Most start-up production companies have the guy or girl that's holding the boom pole also act in a major role and provide their own food and wardrobe.  But most start-up production companies aren't called "CBS FILMS"

Why is there a CBS Films?  It seems that Viacom (before Sumner Redstone's idiotic decision to split the company in half - thus creating this problem in the first place) has a very nice movie production company called Paramount Pictures.  They also made a couple of Harrison Ford movies.  I remember he played a guy named Indiana Jones for them.

You see, I think it's ridiculous CBS Films had to be formed.  It's not going to last (sorry, Les).  New movie companies just don't make it - even backed by a large media company like CBS.  Yes, go ahead and scream all you want about Summit Entertainment and their success - but after they release two more teen-angst vampire movies - they're done. 

I understand Les Moonves' desire to run a completely vertical entertainment conglomerate.  But it's no longer 1995.  The media landscape has changed.  The glorious gatekeeper days are over.   Ask Harvey Weinstein how hard it is to build an empire from scratch (but you may have to buy him lunch to ask that question.  Dude is totally broke).

Look, I work for The World's Largest Media Company - Manka Bros. - and they have five movie labels and all of them suck.  Sorry, Khan (my boss, Khan Manka, Jr.).  And they've been doing it for 90 years.

Even though "Extraordinary Measures" looks like the kind of movie that would give me a really good cry on a Saturday night at home - WHILE WATCHING THE HALLMARK CHANNEL - I'm sort of rooting against this one to succeed. 

newscorp_buys_viacom_small.jpgYou see, I want CBS to buy (or wrest away) Paramount Pictures from Viacom and then immediately close CBS Films.  I want News Corporation to buy all the cable channels and other assets from Viacom

Then I want Viacom and Sumner Redstone to go away... forever.  (I realize Sumner will still be Chairman of CBS - but Chairman can be overthrown - ask Steve Case - even if it's an old coot that's never going to die.)

So, good luck CBS Films.  It's a tall mountain to climb.  I'm thinking "Extraordinary Measures" will pull down between $10-15 million this weekend.  Whether that is good enough to call the first release a success... we'll just have to find out.  Less than $10 million and there will be quite a few worried CBS Films execs on Monday morning.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

Letterman vs. Leno

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The Conan exit deal is done - probably the largest payout in television history for someone averaging a 2.5 rating.  It is presumed he will go to Fox and get a 2.0 rating at 11:00 (my guess is reruns of The Simpsons on local affiliates do better than that).

david_letterman_time_magazine_cover.jpgjay-leno-time-magazine-cover.jpgSo, with apologies to Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, George Lopez, Charlie Rose, etc., it comes down, once again, to Letterman vs. Leno

Who will win the ratings battle (long-term) once they resume head-to-head competition March 1, 2010?

It's very simple:
Jay Leno wins - without a doubt.

jay-leno-picture-1.jpgHere's why:

DEMOGRAPHICS:  Late night talk show viewers are not the Taco-Bell-eating slacker college students that most of these hosts think they're 'in touch with'.  That demo is watching The Daily Show, Colbert, Adult Swim or they're online or playing video games (maybe they're not consuming any media and are out pounding drinks and, God willing, conversing with the opposite sex).  So, older viewers are watching Jay and Dave - and older viewers prefer Jay.  It's warm and safe television with Headlines and JaywalkingDave is 'too edgy' for older America, even in his advanced years.

VACATION:  Jay is notorious for working 46-48 weeks a year.  Dave works... less than that.  Even if Dave wins the first few weeks after Jay returns in March (as expected), Jay will pick up viewers once Dave goes on his first long vacation.

WORK ETHIC:  While I am not doubting that Dave works very hard to put on his show four nights a week, Jay is indefatigable.  He always seems to be out with the public, doing stand-up, corporate events, car shows... almost anything the network asks him to do.  Jay has a high visibility factor that Dave... doesn't have.  (Not that you need that to succeed - Johnny Carson was a painfully shy recluse and did just fine.)  However, when you're trying to win back the hearts and minds of your viewers, being visible with "your public" can go a long way.

leno_at_comedy_store.jpgHISTORY:  Jay Leno has been a consistent ratings winner for 17 years.  Yes, bad press and public sentiment has damaged that but most of Jay's fans could care less about 'The Tonight Show' debacle (though, I think everyone would love to see Jeff Zucker get fired).

Finally, Jay spent 20 years in comedy clubs across the country before getting 'The Tonight Show' and he cut his teeth in that ruthless, back-stabbing world.  If he survived the shit that went on in those clubs, he can survive almost anything.

Dave did quite a bit of stand-up in the 1970s, yes, but never really immersed himself into that world.  Being a great comic was not on his radar.  He has always been perceived (as he wished) as a TV guy. 

Jay is a comic first and a TV guy next - which is why his fans keep watching - they simply want to hear jokes on 'The Tonight Show' told by a comic and not just a "funny person" doing bits.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

P.S. - Where were all these new Conan fans when he really needed them - over the summer when he started hosting The Tonight Show?  If he had the ratings then that he has now - there is no controversy.  Jay would be out and Conan would be in.
A couple of moments ago, I went to to see what fresh content they had put up today and was greeted with a heartbreaking headline about four missing American college students in Haiti who were on a humanitarian mission when the earthquake struck last week. 

inappropriate_online_advertising_2.jpgThen, just as I was going to click-through to read about the parents' anguished search for their children... The Human Target - Premiering On Fox - burst through the story headline with digital flames and bullet holes.

inappropriate_online_advertising_3.jpgCall me crazy, and I realize it's hard to pick and chose which stories get the full animated advertising treatment, but this seems a little inappropriate to me.

Can't The Human Target just burst through Ben Silverman and Jeff Zucker stories?

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

OK.  So Conan is gone.  Jay is back at 11:35.  What's next?  Damage control. 

Over the next few weeks, we can expect to see NBC Universal's 'A Team' of publicists begin the seemingly impossible task of resuscitating the images of Jay Leno, The Tonight Show and NBC

The Winter Olympics couldn't have come at a better time to provide a necessary distraction - and it allows NBC Universal's corporate publicists an extra two weeks to rebuild NBC's shattered image. 

jeff_zucker_small.jpgSo, here's what needs to be done:

Step 1:  Jeff Zucker must be fired.  Regardless of what really happened behind the scenes, his name is synonymous with the total failure of NBC and it is perceived by the public that he is the main reason the Conan/Jay issue became such a mess.  The fact that he actually believed the best way to handle the situation was to attack Conan O'Brien illustrates his complete inability to manage a crisis. 

This is not someone that Comcast needs at the top of the new company to be formed and it's, frankly, not someone that anyone needs (unless he wants to go join his buddy Ben Silverman in his soon-to-be failed company - Electus).  That would be fine with me.

tonight_show_haitian_food_aid.jpgStep 2:  Provide tons of food aid to Haitian earthquake victims (with the optional The Tonight Show With Jay Leno branding on each bag).   It's hard for late night comedians to make fun of someone who is providing real help to people in desperate need.

Step 3: 
Develop really good / meaningful shows and stick with them even if the ratings aren't there.  While this may result in lower profits in the short-term, NBC needs to convince viewers that they are capable of producing quality entertainment and don't just make crappy shows about who can lose the most weight.

That's it.  Jay will go back on at 11:35 and will most likely become #1 again in a month or so.  Major stars will not boycott Jay because the late night shows are vital to the promotion of their upcoming films and television series. 

Sure, right now everyone is on Conan's side but once Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts have films to promote, they'll be right there back on Jay's couch.  Without a doubt.

If these steps are taken, NBC should be in a pretty good position when they announce their fall 2010 shows at the May upfronts.

However, if Step 1 is ignored - all bets are off.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea


Done dealThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 11:35 - 12:35.  Conan O'Brien:  SOL.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

jeff_immelt_brian_roberts.jpgSo... the top brass at NBC Universal just waited and waited just to see how things would play out - and now the shareholders of GE and Comcast (of which I am one) have a major Zucker problem on their hands.  There is really only one solution at this point:  Zucker must be fired. 

How did this man become a top executive in one of the largest media companies in the world without having a clue as to what is going on around him?

About a week ago, I said very specifically what Jeff Zucker needed to do to fix The Jay Leno Show debacle.  I even wrote out his opening remarks to the press. 

jeff_zucker_jay_leno.jpgBut this was ignored (granted, he may not even know OnMedea exists) and now it has become a PR disaster.  Does he not see the total public support for Conan now that he is "the victim"?  Not that Zucker gives a shit about public opinion - if he did, maybe NBC wouldn't consistently be the #4 network. 

Conan didn't have to be "the victim".  He could have been portrayed as a "Wall Street bank" like Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan - who just got a $65 million payout bonus for doing no work. 

Here's a statement that should have been read two weeks ago:  "We are canceling 'The Jay Leno Show' and moving Jay back to 'The Tonight Show' where he belongs - and where he was #1 for many years.  Conan O'Brien has been a valuable member of the NBC family, but the ratings at 11:30 were not what we had hoped.  However, we have made things right with Conan and paid out his contract - $65 million - and wish him luck wherever he may go next."


NBC Universal_execs.jpgBut no, team Zucker (which includes the newly-installed Jeff Gaspin... that press conference on Sunday was a textbook on how not to handle something) decided to insult Conan by giving the failed Jay Leno the coveted 11:35pm time slot (a decision I agree with from a ratings / business standpoint) and asking Conan to move back to 12:05amConan should have been let go (the ratings WERE bad) and he should have been given HIS FULL PAYOUT.  Simple.  No PR disaster. 

Now that little Zucker has insulted Conan AGAIN by saying he will keep him off the air for 3 1/2 years because "he failed to live up to his promise to me."  Are you fucking kidding me?   Basta! 

So... Jeff Immelt and Brian Roberts - as a GE and Comcast shareholder - I would ask that you please end this ridiculous, horribly managed crisis by firing Jeff Zucker - not when the Comcast acquisition goes through - now.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

anderson_cooper_in_haiti.jpgThere's a certain comfort I get whenever I see Anderson Cooper parachute or helicopter into a disaster zone.  You just get the feeling that he'll be the first in and last out on the story. 

He'll report the news 24 hours a day in a tight black t-shirt and not hesitate to dive into a search and rescue operation.

This is an cataclysmic, absolutely horrific tragedy on par with the Asian tsunami in 2004.  Jay Leno / Jeff Gaspin / Jeff Zucker / Ben Silverman news seems completely ridiculous and unimportant at this time (though I'm sure it will return soon enough).

I'll be curious to see how much time Fox News devotes to this story.  Hopefully their only source won't be Pat Robertson.  You can just tell they are itching to dump this "earthquake story" and get back to bashing President Obama's health care plan.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

digg_peter_sarsgaard_green_lantern.jpgOK geeks.  Time to go outside for a little air. 

I just noticed that the current most popular item on Digg is a story about Peter Sarsgaard possibly being cast as the villain in next year's Green Lantern movie.

Jesus Christ, seriously, with the unimaginably horrific tragedy unfolding in Haiti, who cares about who will play the villain in The Green Lantern?! 

Sure, he's a fine actor.  I'm sure he'll be good in the part.  BUT WHO CARES?!  Please don't spend the valuable time you have remaining in your lives "DIGGING" stories like this. 

Here's how this story should be discussed:

TWEET:  Peter Sarsgaard may play the villain in "The Green Lantern" movie?

End of story.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea
american_idol_headstone.jpgAnother iconic American television show is dead. 

Simon Cowell (with impeccable timing as always) announced today at the Television Critics Association winter press tour he has decided to leave American Idol to become creator/producer/judge of the American version of his hit UK talent show The X Factor.  That show will launch in 2011 on Fox.

Simon has realized (along with the rest of the country) that American Idol has become irrelevant and knew it was time to move on. 

A word of advice to Simon Fuller and the producers of American Idol... make this season your last.  Don't attempt some lame version of A.I. without Simon Cowell.  It won't work and people won't watch.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea
jeff_gaspin.jpgThe Jay Leno Show cancellation announcement by Jeff Gaspin - Chairman NBC Entertainment - was handled in just about the worst way possible.  It should have so simple:  Announce the news; admit it was mistake and talk about the exciting changes to come.  That's it. 

Instead, Jeff Gaspin's announcement at the TCA Winter Press Tour was a stunning display on how not to do something.  He was defensive (even blaming other parts of the company) and basically said he didn't really know what they were going to do next.

Let's break down the key quotes:

Gaspin:  "I would have liked nothing more than to give this (The Jay Leno Show) a 52-week try."  (You're the freakin' Chairman of NBC Entertainment - don't you have the power to give it a try for as long you'd like no matter who is against it?  Especially if you would have 'liked nothing more'?

Gaspin:  "This was not an issue for the network..." (No, of course not, NBC kicks ass!  Fourth place ass.  But it still kicks ass!)

Gaspin:  "... it was an issue for our affiliates."  (That's it, blame another part of your company.  One great leadership trait is knowing whom should be blamed in a time of crisis.)

Gaspin:  "We were making money at 10 p.m.  I think, over time, ('Leno's' ratings) might have started to grow.  For the network, it was not yet a wrong decision."  (You really went out on a limb on that one.  'It was not yet a wrong decision?'  What the fuck is that?  Come on, Jeff, just say 'Yes, it was the wrong decision.  We failed but we're going to fix it.'  The culture at NBC has got to change.  When the Chairman of the company is afraid of accountability, what hope is there for the rest of the executive team?)

NBC Universal_execs.jpgSo, Jeff, was "Leno" a mistake?

Gaspin:  "I don't think it's wrong to take chances.  We might have been too early on this one."  (Ah, I see... you're just ahead of your time.  The world is not ready for the bold programming choices coming from NBC.  The world is not ready for a powder puff monologue followed by lame celebrity interviews at 10pm.  Fight on, lone ranger, one day the world will catch up to your vision.)

You want to know how to avoid a "PR Issue", Jeff - nut-up and take the blame for a mistake.  Obviously, your boss Jeff Zucker is too much of a wimp to acknowledge failure.  As I said in October, it's a stupid TV show that didn't work - it's not that big of a deal.  It was a programming choice that didn't work.  Simple as that.

Now, get out there and make the best "Law & Order" spin-off that you can. 

Godspeed, Jeff Gaspin.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea
ben_silverman_hat.jpgYes, this deal is as DumbDumb as you can get.

How to build a successful startup:  Step #1 - Use Barry Diller's money to fund a vanity production label with a friend from high school.

Yes, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett (in particular) are talented guys but anyone who thinks they will spend any real time on this venture is out of their minds.  Sure, we'll get the standard Will Ferrell-type Funny of Die videos of Bateman and Arnett walking around with a steady-cam eating Doritos and improvising about how easy this internet stuff is - but will anything of value come out of DumbDumb

Bateman Arnett.jpgBen Silverman knows the answer to this and laughs at how DumbDumb some people must be.  I would imagine Barry Diller also knows the answer.  Unfortunately, he's the ultimate DumbDumb in this equation for funding Electus in the first place.

But for now... it's all just so exciting.  I know I'm just a cockeyed optimist, but I just can't wait for Ben to change the world again.  And I'm super glad that they took the time out of the arduous process of building the successful DumbDumb business model to appear in Las Vegas for the announcement (along with the awesomely hilarious Notional CEO Lord Ricky Van Veen).

I just hope it's not the same business model that Ben Silverman developed for ElectusSpend $100 million on the development (but not the execution) of digital content and when that money is gone - launch another start-up with another sugar daddy.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

jeff_zucker_jay_leno.jpgOK, Jeff, it's time for you to man-up, nut-up, suck-it-up, eat-it (all those things) and fix this late night issue before it becomes even more of a train wreck. 

It's very simple: 

  • Fire Conan O'Brien and give him all the compensation he is owed as part of a separation deal.  (Don't be a pussy, Jeff, let Conan go to Fox or ABC and pull in an average 2.3/5 share.  Who cares?);
  • Re-install Jay at 11:35 on The Tonight Show and be done with it.  (Jay will quickly become the late night King again because my grandmother "really likes those headlines");
  • Find some old Law & Order's laying around that you can air until you develop a couple of decent shows.
Yes, you may have to deal with a couple of months of bad press ("NBC Screwed Conan"... "Jay Not The Right Man"... "Jeff Zucker Sucks At His Job"... etc.) but it will pass and things will be back to where they were last May (with NBC in fourth place - but not late night).  It will all be like a horrible dream and we'll all wake up with Bobby Ewing in the shower.

jeff-zucker-783490.jpgBut these steps need to be taken immediately.  In order to save you some time, I've drafted your opening comments at the press conference that you should have this afternoon:

"Good afternoon.  Thank you for coming.  [Insert Nikki Finke joke here - something about her always being prompt and in the front row.]  I'd like to take a few moments to discuss our line-up of new dramas at 10pm which will premiere after The Vancouver Olympics.  Just kidding - we don't even have a fucking pilot!

No, I'm here to discuss The Jay Leno Show situation.

[cameras clicking - reporters jostling for position]

Last year, I made a horrible mistake.  Ben Silverman actually made the mistake... but I digress. 

For some asinine reason, we thought we could put Jay Leno on at 10pm and people would actually watch it.  I thought our affiliates would be so happy to have a topical program hosted by one of America's most beloved comedians as a lead in to their local news. 

I was way fucking wrong on that assumption. 

It could have been worse.  I could have announced that we were merging with AOL or that I had re-hired Ben Silverman to run the network.  

So... in order to make things right.  I am officially reinstating Jay Leno to The Tonight Show and have paid off the remainder of Conan O'Brien's contract so that he may pursue other opportunities at other networks.  Conan was a great asset to NBC and a huge talent and we wish him nothing but the best - but we've decided to go back to Jay at 11:35. 

Anyone who has an drama series ideas or any pilots in the can, please have them delivered to Angela Bromstad's house immediately.

I will now take your questions."

Do it, Jeff.  It's not too late to fix things.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea
jay_leno_show_headstone.jpgStop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message The Jay Leno Show is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

Jay at 10pm was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that show would last forever:  I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now:  put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden

Yes, Ben Silverman and Jeff Zucker really changed the future of television.  Actually, no... they didn't.  They didn't at all. 

After all the bravado and presentations.. all the parties and press conferences with claims of blowing up business models and television never being the same... what do we have left?  Jay Leno on The Tonight Show at 11:30 and scripted dramas at 10pm.   

It's now up to Ben Silverman's Electus to change the world.  Come on, Ben, you can do it - put down the blonde and get to work.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

About Jill Kennedy

Jill Kennedy - Blogger - OnMedea Jill Kennedy is an Ivy League MBA / refugee from Lehman Brothers.

Manka Bros. (and the Manka Business Channel) hired her (for a very low sum) to cover the world of media (not the world of Medea) in her own words without corporate interference.

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About Medea

Medea Medea was a real bitch from classical mythology - as most famously dramatized by Euripides.

She was a sorceress and wife of Jason, whom she assisted in obtaining the Golden Fleece. When Jason deserted her, she chopped up their children. One could say, Medea acted as rationally as a major media company.


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